One day, a Christian of America made up in his mind to test Jesus, saying, “Teacher, remind me on how I am to inherit eternal life.” Jesus said to him, “What is written in the New Testament? How do you read it?” And he answered, “I must have faith in him whom God has risen from the dead. It is a living faith which leads me to love God and my neighbor.” And Jesus said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”
But the Christian of America, didn’t fully appreciate the answer. He straightened his back. Cast a smirk of a smile and said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
Jesus replied, “A man was going was Washington D.C. to Philadelphia, and he was car-jacked by several persons, who stole his clothes, seized his smartphone, broke his ribs, cracked his skull, leaving him unconscious on the side of the road. Now it happened to be the time of a great conference and a pro-life group was passing by, and when they saw the man, they passed on by. Likewise a missionary group who just returned from India, when they came to the exact same location, they too passed on to the other side.
But a Muslim, as he traveled to work, saw the man on the side of the road, and when he saw him, he entered into his suffering. He pulled out his first aid kit, tended to the man’s injuries and then called 911 for emergency assistance. He followed the ambulance to the hospital and sat over night with the man in ICU. Next morning he told the hospital billing office, “Here is my credit card. Take care of him and whatever he needs.”
Jesus looked at the Christian of America and with strong eyes asked, “Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man carjacked?”
The Christian of America clenched his fist. He looked around fumbling with the keys in his pocket. He finally looked up to Jesus and said, “The one who showed him mercy.”
And Jesus says to the Christian of America,
“You go, and do the same.”
This retelling of the Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) was inspired by my friend Jared Wilson who tweeted on Monday December 7, 2015: “If Jesus were telling the parable we call The Good Samaritan to many evangelicals today, it might be known as The Good Muslim.”
This year has proven we need to revisit this parable and others like it to recover how we are to live as Christians in this current climate. We are seeking to justify ourselves and how we treat others on the basis of our citizenship, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or political affiliation. Such justifications lead us only to love those who are like us. This parable demonstrates the power of transformative love when those who are in conflict share in each other’s suffering. This parable is spoken to those who ask the question, “What must I do to inherit life?”
Jesus is speaking to us today.
Jesus is telling us a old story in a new way.
Jesus who has showed us mercy now says,
“You go, and do the same. It will cost you time. It will cost you resources. It will cost your life. But because I have give you the power of an indestructible life. You go, and do the same. Show mercy as an act of gratitude for the mercy you have received.”
I came across this picture of the Sainted Mr Rogers and I thought… it was appropriate.
Mr. Rogers was a standard in many GenXer’s homes and in their hearts. I have fond memories from childhood watching this PBS television show.
Mr. Rogers Neighborhood ran for 4 decades and spoke to millions of viewers…
Mr Rogers would open the show with a song that he wrote…
It’s a beautiful day in this neighborhood, A beautiful day for a neighbor.
Would you be mine? Could you be mine?…
It’s a neighborly day in this beauty wood, A neighborly day for a beauty.
Would you be mine? Could you be mine?…
I’ve always wanted to have a neighbor just like you.
I’ve always wanted to live in a neighborhood with you.
So, let’s make the most of this beautiful day.
Since we’re together we might as well say: Would you be mine? Could you be mine?
Won’t you be my neighbor? Won’t you please, Won’t you please?
Please won’t you be my neighbor?
Mr. Rogers passed away in 2003 of stomach cancer…
But Fred McFeeley Rogers, an Ordained Minister in the Prebyterian Church…
Understood the Biblical ideal of a neighbor…
I grew up watching his show so it was a little strange to see him suddenly in the middle of my NewsFeed, over and over, smiling his smile and wearing one of his sweaters. But as soon as I saw what he was saying, I understood why there was this quotation:
“When I was a boy and I would see scary things on the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”
Classic Mr. Rogers: simple, kind and, if you’re a fool or just not paying attention, you might dismiss those words as sentimental without realizing just how powerful and important what he’s saying really is.
Now I like many have heard stories about Fred Rogers… that he was a sniper in vietnam and that the reason he wore long sleaved sweaters was because he was covering full sleeved tatoos arms… these are not true. Aprentlly some people find it difficult to believe that Mr Rogers was just a nice guy, who wanted to teach children. (check out Snoops.com).
CONTEXT IS EVERYTHING: Mr Rogers Giving the Finger to Kids?
Watch the video and learn how.
So Rev Mr. Rogers was a Presbyterian minister, and he viewed his show and what it was doing as his ministry in the world. Mr. Rogers didn’t conduct his public ministry like a lot of religious leaders we see on TV. He wasn’t interested in getting people to claim a certain religious formula or accept a particular set of doctrines, and certainly not in trying to make decisions about who God should and should not love. Like Jesus, he was much more concerned with how we treat our neighbors.
When Jesus was asked what one has to do to have eternal life, he answered, “Love God with your whole heart, soul, mind, and strength; and love your neighbor as yourself.” Importantly, Jesus doesn’t offer a choice between the two; you can’t love God wholeheartedly without doing the same for your neighbor. When someone asks, “And who is my neighbor?”
Jesus responds with one of his most famous stories: the Good Samaritan, in which a man is mugged on the road and left for dead. Several of his own people pass him by on that dangerous road, but a Samaritan man, who would normally be considered an enemy, actually stops, tends to his wounds, takes him to safety at an inn, and tells the innkeeper that he’ll pay whatever expenses the man incurs until he’s well. When he finished, Jesus asked the questioner one of his own: “Which of the people on the road was a neighbor to the man who was robbed?” Sheepishly, the questioner responds, “the one who showed mercy.” And Jesus responds, “Go and do likewise.” It’s not about figuring out who your neighbor is; it’s about figuring out how you can be a neighbor to others.
Every week at the start of his show, Mr. Rogers would sing, “It’s a wonderful day for a neighbor … won’t you be my neighbor?” It sounds simple and kind; and it is, but it is also powerful and important. He was really talking about being a neighbor the same way Jesus did.
He didn’t say, “It’s a beautiful day, let’s be nice to each other.” It is the ugliest days that are the most wonderful ones for being neighbors.
Becasuse being a neighbor isn’t about being nice. The way Mr. Rogers and Jesus mean it, it’s about going out of our way to help our neighbor when they need help, loving your neighbor even more than yourself sometimes as you put yourself at risk for their well-being.
ADAPTED FROM: J. C. Austin, Follow the Helpers, Not the Haters on day1.org April 19, 2013
So I talked about Job today…
or this one…
Season 5 Episode 6 – Cartmanland
What can we learn today from Job’s story and from Job’s faith?
Well one of, Job’s problems was that he had watched too much television!
That’s why he “knew,” he just knew, that if you only did religion right it had to pay off.
Act right, believe right, and success will be yours.
If he was good and he would get the goodies.
He’d heard it over and over again from all those TV preachers with the slick hair and the designer suits, who themselves oozed success from every pore, so it had to be true.
Modern preachers of the gospel of success didn’t invent this idea, of course.
It has been the essence of religion since the beginning of human history.
What is often referred to as prosperity gospel of our day and
has been present in every age, says that God is our cosmic bell hop.
We are always tempted to oversimplify God and our faith into the formula that:
“The good and righteous people shall prosper, be blessed and protected by God; while the wicked and sinful people shall be punished by God and suffer.”
The Book of Job was, I think, written to debunk such an oversimplified view of God and faith.
God is far more complicated than that, and so is faith.
God, in addition to being closer to us than we ourselves is also the Wholly Other God, the Transcendent One who is shrouded in mystery and far beyond human comprehension.
This kind of understanding says that: Like it or not, God or the gods run the show, and they are, basically greedy, and need to be appeased through offerings of various kinds….
Thus religion exists to appease God or the gods. And if we do it well enough, God, like the abusive parent, will make nice for a while and let us win the lottery called life.
It’s there in all the systems early humans developed to ward off the evil spirits and attract the good ones.
It’s there in all the wizards and soothsayers of human history and human folklore.
It’s there in the minor religions and the great ones.
It’s there in the various distortions of Christianity that over the centuries have lured believers to a particular church or a particular creed or a particular guru by promising,
in one way or other, that their slots pay off more than those in
the church next door.
Faith and religion and little more than a cause and effect gamble.
Really it is not very surprising, I suppose, it is there because it’s so deep within us.
Children arrange their teddy bears on the bed just so in order to keep the monsters safely in the closet.
Teenagers adopt whatever fads their decade dictates to appease the gods of popularity.
And grown men wear their baseball caps upside down betting it will guarantee their team a win.
We have lots of superstitions that don’t make sense… doesn’t we.
Some people put a lot of stock into them don’t they…
It’s cute in kids; it’s understandable among teens;
it’s silly for adults — but it’s deadly as religion.
Deadly, because it ties us up in desperate attempts to make ourselves acceptable to a let’s-make-a-deal god who doesn’t exist, thus it is cutting us off from the waiting God who does and who mourns our absence at the family feast prepared for all his children.
This is the religion in which Job was brought up — not because it is a correct understanding of Old Testament faith, but because it’s a popular, lowest-common-denominator understanding of pretty much every religion.
And it’s the religion that is supported, in sometimes trivial ways and sometimes very sophisticated ones, by Job’s friends whose dialogues comprise the main part of this book.
On way to look at the all of the Bible, is the story of God’s 4000+ year quest to wean humanity from this understanding.
And Job describes this dilemma as fully as any biblical book.
Job had a problem, not the obvious one….
but his problem was that the religion Job was raised in,
had faith in wasn’t working.
Job had in fact done everything right, but he was nevertheless thrown into a meat grinder existence that reduced his once happy and prosperous life to a bloody and unrecognizable mess.
Everything gone, Job now sits in the ash heap of his life and wonders why.
His so-called friends assure him that the fault has to be his,
they tell him God does, in fact,
run a you-get-what-you-deserve universe.
And they told him he just needed to: Try harder!
He must have done something wrong…
The trouble is there’s just enough truth in all this to make it seductive.
Because often we do reap what we sow… as it were.
Good acts often do have good consequences;
evil acts do have negative consequences.
We are our own worst enemies;
and most of us could do a lot better if we tried.
All that is true.
The problem comes when we try to use it as a bargaining chip with the Almighty.
On Tuesday, July 23, 2012, bestselling author and international teacher and speaker Rob Bell appeared at The Viper Room in West Hollywood, California, for a live event called “Still Painting.” The event was attended by 75+ people and also livestreamed to 1,500+ viewers around the world (which included me). Bell’s publisher HarperOne put on the event to promote its re-release of Bell’s earlier books with new matching cover designs, as well as to announce that Bell’s next book What We Talk About When We Talk About God will be coming out in March 2013.
Talk Description: “Still Painting is a night of storytelling with Rob Bell. Many people have asked him, “What’s next?” Rob will answer this question with stories: He may talk about the time he dressed-up like a sheriff and it backfired. Or maybe the time he had a brain infection. Or an anecdote from writing Velvet Elvis. Or, possibly, he’ll share how sitting next to a stranger at dinner changed the direction of his life. He loves to tell these stories because they’re humiliating and painful and funny. These are the moments when it appeared that everything had fallen apart. The moments when he thought he’d lost all control. What he learned is that these moments not only belong in our lives, but they’re absolutely necessary for us to become who we truly are. And so we hunt and explore and discover. It’s all just part of it. We have to keep painting….”